BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Nov. 17, the Rockingham Selectboard discussed next year’s preliminary operating budget with Municipal Manager Scott Pickup and Finance Director Shannon Burbela.
Pickup said they were looking into developing a night drop to enable continued services throughout the pandemic. He explained they had submitted for Covid-19 reimbursements but were unsure what the next fiscal year would bring.
Burbela said that the town of Rockingham had $200,000 in past due taxes but suggested foregoing tax sales to cut $50,000 from the budget. She explained that some were already in payment agreements and each tax sale generally costs $150,000 over three years with potential income not seen until the second year.
The town would like to make Development Director Gary Fox’s position full time. Burbela noted, “The environment has changed” and Gary works for both the town and village. She suggested they request the salary difference from the Village Trustees at the Joint Board meeting in December.
The Recycling Center was recommended to stay open three days per week, requiring $20,000 more for personnel wages.
Burbela said that Covid grants might offset the $50,000 in expenses and explained grant revenue would be seen in fiscal year 2022.
Peter Golec asked about the $12,000 budgeted for an executive assistant. Scott Pickup explained they were looking to share the assistant with the Planning & Zoning and Listers Offices. Pickup reminded the board that the five-year tax agreement with Great River Hydro is due and between the three departments “We could share some of the burden.”
On Golec’s question about $15,000 in maintenance wages, Burbela said, “In some capacity we will need somebody” to oversee building maintenance.
Stefan Golec was concerned about the expected revenue in reference to last week’s tax payments. He said, “We still have this pandemic going on. In some respects, it’s increasing and getting worse.” He explained he knows community members who have lost hours, jobs, and insurance.
Golec said, “I’m going to be ultra-conservative this year. I would hope the board, as they usually do, keep all of this in mind. We need to be sympathetic and understanding.”
Chair Gaetano Putignano said that in March “I think we did a good job… heeding that warning and we made adjustments.”
With many businesses closing again, Putignano said, “I don’t think we’ve seen the full impact.” He suggested spending with caution. “I think this is the year we reduce taxes – it’s time to rearrange budgets, doing more with less.”
Burbela reminded the board, “Since I’ve been here, I haven’t had a budget that’s gone over.” She said everyone is working “multiple jobs and wearing multiple hats, and we will continue doing that.”
Putignano agreed, “I trust that you do, but some of these businesses are not going to open back up ever.”
Stefan Golec said, “We need to start thinking differently – how we are spending…now is the time we can hope for the best, but we have got to plan for the worst.”
The Rockingham Selectboard meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays each month at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Opera House and meetings are also available online on Fact TV.